Practical guide to signing up
- Go to Twitter.com and choose ‘sign up’. Provide your details. You will need to give either a valid phone number or email, in order to receive a confirmation code. It is safe to do so.
- It’s generally fine to give your real name, but you do not have to. The system will suggest a @username (Twitter handle) based on the details you give it; but these tend to be of the generic “@JohnDoe12458” type, and it is better to invent your own.
- Similarly, you don’t have to fill in your profile or photo right away, but it will help to distinguish you from the mass of other new users if you do.
- The sign-up process suggests a number of contacts to follow, based on your own contacts plus some sample “popular accounts”: it is OK to bypass this stage, which can clutter your feed.
- On a phone, Twitter can be accessed by web page or app. The interface is similar on each. The official app is convenient, and is worth downloading when prompted.
“If you want to know how we practised medicine 5 years ago, read a textbook.
If you want to know how we practised medicine 2 years ago, read a journal.
If you want to know how we practise medicine now, go to a (good) conference.
If you want to know how we will practise medicine in the future, listen in the hallways and use FOAM”
From International EM Education Efforts & E-Learning by Joe Lex 2011
The growth of social media for medical CPD has been astronomical over recent years. More and more healthcare professionals are taking to Twitter to share useful papers and educational resources. The emphasis on encouraging Free Open Access Medical Education (FOAM) is embedded throughout these interactions. We have no intention of reinventing the wheel with this one, but have tried to combine the wealth of information already out there with a few of our own experiences. Hopefully this will help newcomers to Twitter, and perhaps persuade those still resisting to come on board.
What is Twitter?
• Online social networking/microblogging platform enabling users to send and read text-based messages (‘tweets’).
• Limited to 140 characters [see highlighted text below to see how long that is!].
• Photos can be tweeted.
• You only read tweets of people you follow.
• Anyone can follow you, although you can block them if you wish.
• Global conversation with like-minded individuals interested in the latest medical practice and literature.
• It’s acceptable just to watch if you prefer.
• Follow conferences even if you are not there.
• Social networking and friendships develop and can be consolidated at conferences, with colleagues across the globe.
What does it mean to follow someone on Twitter?
This means that you’ve chosen to subscribe to their Twitter updates. You can unfollow them at any time. Similarly, anyone is able to follow you. If you decide that you do not wish for them to do this, you can always ‘block’ them. You can easily see who is following you.
Who should I follow?
Have a look at someone you know, who is already using Twitter for medical education purposes, and look at their list of people they are following. You will quickly learn to recognise the Twitter characters who are reliable and useful, and after a period of Twitter interaction, you should start building up your own following.
What’s @ and # all about?
@TwitterID directs your message to that person. You can add other names if you want to send to multiple, but beware the character limit. If ‘@’ appears at the start of the tweet it will go to that person AND anyone who is following both you and them. If ‘@’ appears later in the tweet, it will go to that person and ALL of your followers.
To illustrate this, if you send the following tweet ‘@avkwong this blog is rubbish’ – I will receive this message and anyone that is following both of us. If you send ’This blog is rubbish @avkwong’ or ‘This blog by @avkwong is rubbish’ – I will receive this message and also ALL of your followers – thanks!
A Direct Message (DM) This is a private message and visible only to you.
# (hashtag) is used to mark keywords or topics in a tweet. Anyone can make a hashtag at any time, simply by typing a phrase of the form ‘#topic’ in a tweet (again no spaces). This creates a page specific to that hashtag and whenever someone tweets and includes this hashtag, it will be visible on this page as well as to anyone who follows them.
Many hashtags have already been created, and medical conferences will advertise the ones they are using e.g. #isicem15 (International Symposium on Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine 2015), #ICSSOA2015 (State of the Art Meeting, ICS 2015) and #smaccDUB (Social Media and Critical Care Conference 2016). The days of writing notes at conferences (if you did in the first place) have also gone if the conference is well covered by avid Twitter users. Photos of conference slides, posters and equipment at trade exhibitions can also be tweeted and shared.
What’s Twitter not so good for?
Apart from your social life, it is not a great platform for having extensive discussion and debate. This often is difficult to fit in 140 characters, and results in huge number of tweets about one topic, and the context of these key messages can often be lost in translation.
A word of caution with using Twitter
You should comply with the General Medical Council (UK)’s ‘Good Medical Practice’ (http://www.gmcuk.org/guidance/good_medical_practice.asp) or equivalent in your country, and it is worth having a look at the brief GMC regulations (http://www.gmc-uk.org/guidance/ethical_guidance/21186.asp).
• Register at Twitter.com
• Install the App on your mobile device(s)
• Follow users and hashtags (#)
• No, you DO NOT have to contribute
• It is OK to watch
A few suggestions of who to follow to get you started….
Intensive Care Society @icsmeetings
Intensive Care Network @I_C_N
European Society of Intensive Care Medicine @ESICM
The Bottom Line @WICSBottomLine
Critical Care Reviews @CritCareReviews
Scan Crit @scancrit
ICM Case Summaries @icmcasesummaries
Also, take a look at the list of individuals or organisations that someone else is following and pick out your favourites.